Fresh is almost always better when it comes to baitfish. Whether you’re trolling rigged ballyhoo for billfish or sinking skipjack herring for monster blue cats, almost all fish prefer baits that look and smell alive—or at least recently deceased.
Many times when live bait is hard to come by, frozen baitfish is the next best option. In some situations the efficiency of frozen makes it the best option. Diving into the big freezer chest at the bait shop is a good option, but some hard-core bait fishermen choose to freeze their own. Doing it yourself saves cash, and it ensures an on-hand supply of your preferred baitfish.
Next time you find yourself with a full tank of bait at the end of a trip, use this proven method to stock up for future trips.
The key to quality frozen baits is to freeze them fresh. This requires you to be prepared with a cooler, some ice and some sea salt to bring their temperature down as quickly as possible. By alternating layers of fish and ice in the cooler and sprinkling the ice with salt, bait will be on its way to freezing by the time you get home.
If you’ve got a vacuum sealer, seal chilled bait in small batches and single layers. Freezer bags are almost as good if you’re careful to push out all the air you can before freezing. With either method, space the bait packages out to freeze them faster. Once they’re frozen, you can stack them up.
When it comes to thawing bait, do it in small batches in a bucket of the water you’re fishing in.